Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Friday, February 01, 2008

Gordon B. Hinckley -- The Happy Warrior

First I need to tell you that much of this post will be a guest blog -- by William Wordsworth, no less.

I can do that, right? If Rob can malign John Steinbeck in an "interview" on Tuesday, come Friday can't I use Wordsworth's words (respectfully and gratefully) when my own fail?

And words have failed me. Maybe it's the pressure. (I've received six e-mails this week asking if I would blog about President Hinckley today.) Maybe it's denial. (Six times I've responded, "I can't write about something I refuse to think about.") That last thing isn't entirely true. Like everyone else in the Church, I've thought a lot about President Hinckley. He's been in the First Presidency practically since I joined the Church at 19. He and Joseph define the word "prophet" for me. But in all my thinking, I have yet to come up with any words -- of my own -- that could come close to describing this incredible man of God.

Wordsworth didn't quite nail Gordon B. Hinckley either, but he came closer than I ever will. (In Wordsworth's defense, he didn't know President Hinckley. Chances are he's composing something now that is even more fitting than what I'm about to use. Check out his new stuff when you get to heaven.) In the meantime, when I think of a latter-day warrior, someone who fought the good fight with valor and love and overflowing humor and happiness, I think of our beloved prophet. Perhaps these profound words of praise weren't written about him, but they could have been.

Character of the Happy Warrior
by William Wordsworth

Who is the happy Warrior? Who is he
That every man in arms should wish to be?
--It is the generous Spirit, who, when brought
Among the tasks of real life, hath wrought
Upon the plan that pleased his boyish thought:
Whose high endeavours are an inward light
That makes the path before him always bright;
Who, with a natural instinct to discern
What knowledge can perform, is diligent to learn
Abides by this resolve, and stops not there,
But makes his moral being his prime care;
. . . Because occasions rise
So often that demand such sacrifice;
More skilful in self-knowledge, even more pure,
As tempted more; more able to endure,
As more exposed to suffering and distress;
Thence, also, more alive to tenderness.
--'Tis he whose law is reason; who depends
Upon that law as on the best of friends;
Whence, in a state where men are tempted still
To evil for a guard against worse ill,
And what in quality or act is best
Doth seldom on a right foundation rest,
He labours good on good to fix, and owes
To virtue every triumph that he knows: . . .
Who comprehends his trust, and to the same
Keeps faithful with a singleness of aim;
And therefore does not stoop, nor lie in wait
For wealth, or honours, or for worldly state;
Whom they must follow; on whose head must fall,
Like showers of manna, if they come at all:
Whose powers shed round him in the common strife,
Or mild concerns of ordinary life,
A constant influence, a peculiar grace;
But who, if he be called upon to face
Some awful moment to which Heaven has joined
Great issues, good or bad for human kind,
Is happy as a Lover; and attired
With sudden brightness, like a Man inspired;
And, through the heat of conflict, keeps the Law
In calmness made, and sees what he foresaw;
Or if an unexpected call succeed,
Come when it will, is equal to the need:
--He who, though thus endued as with a sense
And faculty for storm and turbulence,
Is yet a Soul whose master-bias leans
To homefelt pleasures and to gentle scenes
Sweet images! which, wheresoe'er he be,
Are at his heart; and such fidelity
It is his darling passion to approve;
More brave for this, that he hath much to love:--
'Tis, finally, the Man, who, lifted high,
Conspicuous object in a Nation's eye, . . .
Plays, in the many games of life, that one
Where what he most doth value must be won
Whom neither shape or danger can dismay,
Nor thought of tender happiness betray;
Who, not content that former worth stand fast,
Looks forward, persevering to the last,
From well to better, daily self-surpast
Who, whether praise of him must walk the earth
For ever, and to noble deeds give birth,
Or he must fall, to sleep without his fame,
And leave a dead unprofitable name--
Finds comfort in himself and in his cause;
And, while the mortal mist is gathering, draws
His breath in confidence of Heaven's applause:
This is the Happy Warrior; this is he
That every man in arms should wish to be.

I abridged the piece and added the italics, both to try to hold your interest if you're not into classical poetry and to highlight parts that gave me the most goose bumps. I really do believe that as the mortal mist gathered last weekend, Gordon B. Hinckley's last breath was drawn amid heaven's resounding applause. The void that such a man leaves -- in our hearts and in the Kingdom -- is indeed great. Still, President Hinckley himself would have us "be not content that former worth stand fast" but rather "look forward and persevere to the last." Persevere we will, under heaven's eye and with the inspired, loving, leadership of yet another of the truly great prophets, seers, and revelators sent to shepherd us toward the millennium, and beyond.

As a very sad, very humble woman-in-arms today, my fervent wish is that tomorrow afternoon I will stand a little taller, be a little more faithful, a little more tender -- a little more like the Happy Warrior who went before and for so many, many years showed me the way God wants me to be.


At 2/01/2008 12:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a beautiful tribute I love classical poetry. I've been searching for commentary on our dear Prophet this was what I needed to read this morning, for reminding me to make my tribute to him a actions from his words. God Bless you,
Kim Scott, Vernonia Oregon

At 2/01/2008 1:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is the perfect tribute.

At 2/01/2008 2:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, but lady, you stand taller today already, having searched and given us each words to raise our hearts and express the thoughts of our own souls as we think of this man we've loved so much and who, in turn, has loved us back even more. We are grateful to him and thankful to you.


At 2/01/2008 2:34 PM, Blogger Nancy said...

It's perfect, Kerry. Absolutely beautiful.

Nancy Allen

At 2/01/2008 5:08 PM, Anonymous Jennie Hansen said...

Odly enough a former stake president of mine used this same happy warrior poem to eulogize President Kimball at his passing. It was appropriate then and it is now. I suspect these two happy warriors are doing a bit of catching up now, if they aren't already charging full steam ahead to get things done on the other side.
My husband and I decided to visit the temple this morning. There's always something beautiful and peaceful about those few minutes following a session, but it went far beyond that today. To come home and find your blog was the perfect complement to that experience and the tender feelings and memories I hold of our dear Prophet.

At 2/01/2008 9:21 PM, Blogger Cheri J. Crane said...

Beautiful, Kerry. A fitting tribute for an amazing prophet of God.

At 2/09/2008 12:05 PM, Blogger The Wells said...

A lot of what I'm seeing and hearing in the media is people mourning over the passing of President Hinckley. Well I say, Good for him! He lived a long and productive life. He was very talented and used his abilities in the service of others. He was given many opportunities--and the attendant responsibilities--that most of us will never have and performed them well including taking the final step life has to offer. If anyone has a good shot at having lived so as to qualify for returning to live with Heavenly Father he does. He is now with his wife and many of the people--long since gone from this life--he knew over the past 97 years. Thank you President Hinckley for all you have done and best wishes on your new assignment.


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